This is an engaging account of Paabo's work in paleo-genomics. He does not shy away from rigorously describing the science, nor from the political macThis is an engaging account of Paabo's work in paleo-genomics. He does not shy away from rigorously describing the science, nor from the political machinations of the academe, nor from including details about his personal life over that time. Highly recommended....more
A thorough biography of Emerson with a heavy focus on explicating his intellectual development. A solid overview of his thought and life, but sometimeA thorough biography of Emerson with a heavy focus on explicating his intellectual development. A solid overview of his thought and life, but sometimes tediously focused on lists of books he read each year....more
It is strange that feminism in the US is extremely concerned about supposed campus rape culture and micro-aggressions, yet largely silent on the plighIt is strange that feminism in the US is extremely concerned about supposed campus rape culture and micro-aggressions, yet largely silent on the plight of women in the 3rd world that Ali champions. Indeed, the broader political left more frequently plays apologist for this injustice on "religious tolerance" terms.
Clearly, the vast majority of Muslims are good people. Equally clearly, common Islamic beliefs are anti-women. The West has no problem noticing the similar case in Christian terms on, say, abstinence-only sex education or anti-evolution propaganda. I could expound at length about this double-standard, but I will spare you (and myself). If we want Islam to truly become the "religion of peace" that it is often claimed to be, then critics like Ali need our support and should not have to fear being murdered in the street. And we need to be aware of the fact that the societies in which many Muslims live do not tolerate such criticism. Until that time, the moral high ground will remain with Islam's critics....more
Goldstein is trying to do three distinct things here. First, a general introduction to Plato. Second, a series of pastiche dialogues where her incarnaGoldstein is trying to do three distinct things here. First, a general introduction to Plato. Second, a series of pastiche dialogues where her incarnation of Plato interacts with moderns. Third, a defense of philosophy as a discipline from modern scientist critics (mainly represented by Lawrence Krauss in the book). She does a serviceable job on all three, however I was not a huge fan of the conflation of them.
By far, the most engaging sections of the book are the nouveau dialogues. Plato encounters a Google programmer, thinly veiled versions of Amy Chua and Bill O'Reilly, an advice columnist, and neuroscientists. I can see why these were interleaved with explanatory chapters that get the reader up to speed on the relevant broad strokes of Greek philosophy beforehand. You simply can't expect a modern reader to come prepared with that anymore.
However, this left little room for a decent defense of philosophy. The arguments relating to that position felt perfunctory and ill-addressed. Sometimes the dialogues were a fruitful refutation; at other times, they appear to justify the criticism that philosophy hasn't made progress. While she covers how and why science depends or otherwise presupposes Platonism, she does not adequately address how Platonic thought has been used as a crutch by various theisms, pseudosciences, and political ideologies past and present. Perhaps this is "why philosophy won't go away," but it doesn't speak to why philosophy shouldn't go away--which is what I take her position to actually be. She didn't really sell me on the latter--and I really wanted to be sold to...
Regarding the Audible audiobook narrated by Dennis Holland: Holland is a great voice talent. He does the dialogues very well. However, the mispronunciations were so annoying. Thales doesn't rhyme with "tails." The butchering of the Greek was the worst though and it was rampant. I blame the producers, not the voice talent. This is akin to a print book with misspellings everywhere. It doesn't take that long to get reasonably close and when recording a book on Greek philosophy you should have acquainted yourself with the pronunciation of all the names you will be saying over and over....more
As Sagan's (seemingly) only work of fiction, this novel is superb. It is a very believable portrayal of how an actual SETI discovery might play out. HAs Sagan's (seemingly) only work of fiction, this novel is superb. It is a very believable portrayal of how an actual SETI discovery might play out. However, it is also a primer on skepticism and epistemology. I particularly like how he describes what a scientifically verifiable religion might look like. But don't be too quick to dismiss the book as atheist propaganda. Sagan is a master of finding common ground between earnest theists and atheists alike.
Wow, a fair number of angry 1-star reviews of this book here on Goodreads. I suspect these are anti-Chomskyites or bitter social scientists who didn'tWow, a fair number of angry 1-star reviews of this book here on Goodreads. I suspect these are anti-Chomskyites or bitter social scientists who didn't like Pinker's criticism of relativism in the final chapter. Or possibly, johnny-come-latelys who are carrying over their critique from his later book, The Blank Slate. As a pop-sci overview of modern linguistics (ie. the whole point of the book), this is excellent.
Some random thoughts on criticism: Within the field Pinker certainly has staked out his own position as a defender of many of Chomsky's ideas (Chomsky the brilliant linguist, not Chomsky the idiot leftist tool), but the only reason to whine about that and give 1-star is if you aspire to be the ideologue you claim Pinker is. After all, these ideas are fundamental to the field and this is a very well-written book. As it happens, I agree with Pinker's views but to prove I don't review along party lines like one of these jackass whiners, check out my review of The Mismeasure of Man where I take heat for defending Gould despite not swallowing his relativism wholesale. (Incidentally, Pinker criticizes Gould several times herein.) I think Pinker does an admirable job trying to transcend false dichotomies like nature vs. nurture, which is why it annoys me so to see such ignorant reviews criticizing him for doing the opposite. ...more
The subtitle of this book is A History of Its Ideas, Ambassadors, and Institutions, however it is heavily skewed toward biography. I'd break it down aThe subtitle of this book is A History of Its Ideas, Ambassadors, and Institutions, however it is heavily skewed toward biography. I'd break it down as 70% on ambassadors & institutions and 30% on ideas, which is the inverse of what I would have preferred. Even so, this is a very useful introduction to the history of the school of Austrian economics. If you are aware of the existence of Austrian economics such that you are willing to read a book on it, then you have probably already heard of Mises and Hayek. This book also introduces you to their forerunners which you probably haven't heard of.
You can get the book for free from Mises.org as an ebook or audiobook. The production value of the audiobook is very high. The reader has excellent diction and German/French pronunciation for all the names and book titles cited....more
This book is based on a series of radio shorts from 2005 called Talkin' About Talk produced at the College of Charleston. The College has made the recThis book is based on a series of radio shorts from 2005 called Talkin' About Talk produced at the College of Charleston. The College has made the recordings available on their website and through iTunesU.
The book (and radio program) are exactly what it says it is: quick introductory essays on a range of topics in the broad field of linguistics that are good starting points for interested laypeople.
The only minor criticism I have is that it can be a bit rah-rah, overly positive about the quality, effectiveness, and success of our language teaching methodologies and educational institutions. Considering the radio programs were part of a marketing/outreach effort for an event (the CAL "2005 Year of Languages" campaign) sponsored by those institutions, that's not much of a surprise....more
I'm familiar with Walter Block from Mises Institute-sponsored lectures on their YouTube channel. I like him and agree with many of his arguments, whicI'm familiar with Walter Block from Mises Institute-sponsored lectures on their YouTube channel. I like him and agree with many of his arguments, which makes negatively reviewing this book something of an unpleasant chore.
For starters, the tone of this book reinforces every libertarian stereotype out there: brash, pedantically argumentative, overly-theoretical, and absolutist. Personally, I like these traits in people, but they are wholly counter-productive in the kind of "apology" literature that this book purports to be. Even when you agree with Block, he makes you want to argue the minutiae with him.
Second, he conflates a pragmatic legal argument with a moral argument. There is no need to define pimps, drug pushers, etc. as "heroes" to defend the legality of these actions and in fact attempting this alienates folks who agree on pragmatic grounds.
If Block insists on making the pedantic, semantically-narrow "moral hero" case, he should have done it at the end of the book in a dedicated chapter after he had done his best with the pragmatic approach. Ideally, he would have done so in an entirely separate book.
Third, he is overly reliant on deductive, a priori reasoning, occasionally making unsubstantiated assertions that he could easily back up with facts and figures but doesn't bother.
Fourth, some of his arguments are just plain idiotic. I offer up the chapter defending litterbugs as exemplary. Block makes compelling arguments too, but his strongest ones can be found in other books that are not as incendiary and are therefore more likely to convince, like Economics in One Lesson.
Finally, the tone and word choice in some cases sounds vaguely racist to modern ears, despite the fact that he's trying to make pro-minority arguments at the time. I'm willing to chalk this up to the fact that the book was originally written in 1976.
Regrettably, I can only recommend this book to Block's ideological cohorts because he fails to frame his argument in a way that will actually convince people who are not already likely to agree....more
I did this series twice--once last summer right before a trip to Italy and just now for review in preparation for more serious study. My snobbery makeI did this series twice--once last summer right before a trip to Italy and just now for review in preparation for more serious study. My snobbery makes me want to look down on this course as too simple and slow, but I have to confess it is effective. Each lesson is 30 minutes for a total of 15 hours. You can listen to one per day and rarely does a lesson need to be repeated because repetition is already built into the content. I do it while getting ready in the morning.
Frankly, the phrases that it teaches are largely geared toward getting American businessmen laid. I suppose that could be a plus or a minus depending on your needs... I'll be continuing on to series II and III while working through a grammar book at the same time....more
The sequel to God, No! (which I also consumed as an audiobook), this recounts more of Penn's stories. Many I had heard him tell elsewhere already, butThe sequel to God, No! (which I also consumed as an audiobook), this recounts more of Penn's stories. Many I had heard him tell elsewhere already, but he's such a great storyteller that they don't suffer from retelling. Still, my favorite parts were the ones I hadn't heard--not because they were the best ones, but simply new to me....more
Most of these stories I first heard told in my college anthropology courses. They constitute a big chunk of the mythos of the discipline. Visit your local natural history museum while reading to see casts of many of the fossils mentioned herein....more
The broader scope of this book from his previous is both a strength and weakness. His use of evolutionary psychology works as far as I can tell, but aThe broader scope of this book from his previous is both a strength and weakness. His use of evolutionary psychology works as far as I can tell, but also strikes me as not very scientific in the Popperian sense which is somewhat ironic considering his argument. But, his main thesis--that rational supporting evidence for a belief tends to be accepted after a belief is adopted--I think is valid....more
Being mainly fan of his polemics against religion, it was with mild disinterest that I listened to this audiobook. I very much admire the languid elegBeing mainly fan of his polemics against religion, it was with mild disinterest that I listened to this audiobook. I very much admire the languid elegance of his prose and in this he does not disappoint. The best bits are the sections on his early life, his friendships with Amis, Fenton, & Rushdie, becoming a US citizen, and discovering his Jewish roots. The chunks about his socialism and politics were a bore, with the occasional gem tossed in--his part in a riotous college rally and the death in Iraq of a serviceman convinced to go by Hitchens' writings come to mind.
My favorite excerpt actually comes from the interview appended to the end of the audiobook version:
The study of literature is a much better moral pursuit--a much better way of confronting ethical questions and moral dilemmas--than is the study of holy writ. If you, for example, spend time reading and thinking about Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment or George Eliot's Middlemarch there is a great deal more matter in there for thought and reflection on how the good life could or should be lived and what is evil and (if there is such a thing) how it is to be handled than there is in any of the testaments or parables.
Since my friend Curtis read this first and posted a gargantuan review here, my thoughts below will be a response to him as much as Dawkins directly. ISince my friend Curtis read this first and posted a gargantuan review here, my thoughts below will be a response to him as much as Dawkins directly. I commend his review to you.
I'd agree with Curt that his tone is annoying and he occasionally overstates his case, but I generally agree will most of his reasoning. Where I think Curt's criticism is unfair when he faults Dawkins for not addressing in detail what are essentially deist positions. That is simply not Dawkins target.
Regarding the audiobook, I disliked the second narrator for quotes, etc. It was a distraction....more
When Sagan is waxing philosophical this book is transcendent, most notably in the first half dozen chapters where he most directly addresses man's plaWhen Sagan is waxing philosophical this book is transcendent, most notably in the first half dozen chapters where he most directly addresses man's place in the universe as a philosophical rather than practical problem.
If you can, track down the audiobook. Sagan did the abridged version himself and it is a beautiful reading. The unabridged version inserts the missing audio with another reader who, while competent, is no match for Sagan....more
A decent introductory survey course on the Enlightenment. It did make me realize how heavily skewed my knowledge of this period is to the English. (AnA decent introductory survey course on the Enlightenment. It did make me realize how heavily skewed my knowledge of this period is to the English. (Anyone who's met me knows my sympathies for the classical liberalism born out of these English Enlightenment philosophers.)
I need to read more French literature--Diderot in particular. It's on the to-do list......more